Think inside … or outside the InBox? Mail Next continues the never ending Story

I can’t get it out of my head. While I like what I saw in Scott’s and Kramer’s presentation (and I get more and more the impression Ed’s shoes are probably too small for them), I think we are somehow going in circles.
The Mail Next concept is really cool. No doubt about that. IBM got to the point (already a while ago), where they realized, that users don’t want to get out of their inbox. It is today the epicenter of the work. Bringing the other applications to the inbox, is probably easier, than forcing users to go elsewhere for tasks they always did in the inbox. All very nice. But I fear, the run of the mill user will not „get“ it.
What we have to realize is, that most of us are biased. We like technology. We like to fiddle around with things and I for the matter always used my skills as a developer, to make my life easier. For example, it started in the days with Notes 6. I never used folders because I always ran into the problem, where to put things. Customer? Project? ToDo? Once you moved it from the inbox, it’s gone. It was too much of a hassle to go every time to the all documents view and put the same mail in different folders … tagging for the poor. I knew how that works, the common users do not. I explained it a hundred times to users, nobody grasped the concept. Where I worked then, we made our own views (not folders, views). Customer/sent&received, Sender/send&received, Projects/ … and so on. Tagging for the a bit richer. Many things you don’t find even in the latest and greatest mail client version. Some of these even made it in my contribution for OpenNTF: the OpenNTF Mail Experience German Version and some even used it. But, that’s just us yellow bleeding guys and girls.
Some time ago I wrote about that CFO who was so happy to finally having migrated to Outlook, because now he had tasks. Now stop groaning, the story continues (BTW after two years they still have Domino servers and Notes clients for applications). A bit later I told that story to a group of people, who were just bitching about their email flooding. Nobody laughed. They just asked, what are tasks. If anybody thought just IBM failed at the design of Notes, because the tasks were not easy enough to find and use, surprise, surprise, Microsoft failed, too. It’s not the design of the client, it’s the training of the user.
It’s like driving. If you are required to be able to drive a car for your job, all the employer expects is a driver’s license. You can be the lousiest driver in the world, does not matter, the employer (most) will not send you to have some special training to become a better driver and bring accidents down or make you to learn to read a map to stop you getting lost.
Same with email. You know Email? You are hired. I bet that 90% of all users just now „New“,“Send“,“Delete“ and how to move mails to a folder.
I even saw geeks that did not now more, because all they did was programing and Notes was just an annoying piece on the screen that did not look like everybody else’s mail client.
But all of them think they are pretty good with computers. Again like driving a car. Over 70% of all drivers think they are better than average..(pause for thinking)…. (got it?).
I bet way more than half of all companies think, that they use IT to the max, despite the fact that they just use mail (probably calendar, but no task or simple BPM), file server and some „ERP“ and have a homepage that isn’t up to date at all. They never dive a bit deeper into the possibilities of their tools. But they do tons of nice and shiny Word and PowerPoint templates.
Most of the reasoning I heard is, they have no time. You can argue, that if you learn a few things about using Notes/Outlook, you save so much time, that you can even take on more projects. Does not matter, they don’t have the time to invest NOW to save time later. Today we just „know“ how email works. Nobody invests in something, that everybody knows already (see above „tasks“).
Now back to Mail Next. I want it … It’s not really new, IBM has tried for years to reinvent how we work with mail. They took on one of the most daunting tasks out there and came up with some really great ideas to make live easier but all of them require training. If pick some average user from the street, tell him that Mail Next is his mail client and he should now start working. No training, just start working, like it will happen in many companies. After five minutes the user will hate it with a passion you can only dream of. Just because he can not find the inbox and hasn’t a clue why there are pictures of people he just met five minutes ago or not at all. And what is a dash-board?

If IBM does not come up with a way that everybody just looks as Mail Next and „get’s“ it, they are back at square one. And I don’t think Gamification is a solution.
Now if IBM wants that to be a success, and I don’t see a reason why not, they should probably add FREE training to every migration to Mail Next. Otherwise the „I hate Notes“ will  seamlessly become „I hate Mail Next“.
Oh yes, some marketing would help, too (now please stop rolling on the floor, I had to say that, didn’t I).

Notes Next anyone? Connectosphere OGS and Mail Next presentation

I watched the OGS yesterday. First: For some reason we were not allowed to see a live stream of some guy named Seth Meyers. I had to google him, to find out that he is some actor and does something with Saturday Night Life. I don’t think that IBM has something to do with this. Probably Mr. Meyers legal department came up with that idea right before the start of Connect and IBM had no choice to accept. IBM certainly knows, that this is quite an affront towards those not able to attend in person. If William Shatner or Michael J. Fox accept a live stream, why not some rather unknown guy like Seth Meyers? We will never know why, but if Stuart McIntyre says that he is funny, but not brilliant, that’s good enough for me. For all those blocked out, we haven’t missed a lot.
What came next? Cloud, Analytics … and so on. Collaboration for success … pioneering … tools and best practices … ROI … change the way you work … same procedure as every year. I just checked if I am not listening to last years Connect, but no, that’s 2014 alright.
Sika is telling what they did. I wrote about that last year at the Snoug event LSCTY.
That guy was funnier last time and much more interesting. Probably nervous.

Pepsico’s Fern Johnson and a Pepsico add … curious, I don’t use any of their products.
Madam, you are talking way too fast and you read too much from the teleprompter, but IBM is certainly happy to have Pepsi there. Pretty cool implementation anyway. But has anybody an idea what they are using? SharePoint? But now I skip the customer experiences … it’s always the same and you can watch that by yourself.
Let’s look at the demos. I again agree with Stuart. Greenwell Bank must have a huge IT department. Many, many developers. That is probably not the impression they wanted to make.
Actually … I didn’t see any demos. If the room there was full of developers, half of them would be sleeping by now. It’s all about what you can do, but now how! Once in a while a product name comes up. Are customers happy to see that? I am not sure about that. Isn’t it about showing IBM’s products? I can only assume, that they use IBM stuff, but I didn’t see anything that explained the how and why? Did I just nod off?
Mail Next, browser-based and offline capable. Oh yessss. Looks like I wasn’t far off last week. An easier way of building apps, too? Getting even closer. Notes Client gone? Dunno, but I for the matter look forward to Mail Next. Count me in on the beta.
I also watched the session about Notes and Mail Next. Now I think Scott and Kramer should take the stage at the OGS. They made a very good interactive session. If they used the teleprompters, I did not feel it. The way they present, you actually believe it. Passion shows. If the two of them show up in the yellow bubble a bit more and pamper us partners, I am pretty sure the Ed’s shoes are not as big as they might think. A lot of the negative feelings among partners – I mean outside those exclusive circles that get invited to sign NDA’s – come from the lack of interaction.
On the other hand, I am still confused. There will be a Notes Next Client? Or not? Right now I am not even sure if IBM knows it.
It would be a good idea to register Kramers blog on PlanetLotus … and please open the comments. We want to tell you, when you are wrong, but also when you are right. Don’t be afraid, we normally do not bite too hard. Ed’s blood losses were acceptable and he was thinner then.
Now to wrap it up (as they say at the end), the OGS was boring. Frankly, I prefer somebody who can speak freely, if necessary just with a few cards in his/her hands. They all walk back and forth like tigers in a cage, and you just see, that they read from the teleprompter. Just once for heaven’s sake, watch a key note from Apple. That’s how it is done. Yes, it takes more time, yes, you have to rehearse it several times, but it is YOUR SHOW OF THE YEAR. Act like it is as important to you as it is for the audience. They come from all over the world to see you and hear news. They are passionate. Give them the show they deserve.
And way too many customer success stories. And for the Greenlife show, if you are not an actor, don’t act like one. It does not work. It does not look professional. You do not need to pretend somebody of an imaginary company. We all know you guys. We want to see YOU and not see you acting. Spare that for the Karaokee night. Whoever had that idea should be transferred to Nome for a winter season of penguin counting.
Now let’s see what the rest of the week brings.

Notes X

Will IBM announce Notes 10 next week? I don’t know, but I think it would be about time.
Since Ed’s departure to mobile, I feel a bit cut off. Nobody within IBM is really satisfying my need for news. The only thing I heard, is a new project about connecting MS Outlook, which is a good thing, that will save a ton of money for companies who suddenly find themself in the hands of some Outlook fan boys/girls. But that’s about it.
Now what? Whenever the number „X“ comes into play, we expect something eyewatering (or naughty). OSX was something almost completely new, the Citation „X“ is the flagship of Cessna (and Cessna employees will look extremely annoyed if you say „X“, it’s „ten“, got that?).
What could be the big step forward, to make Notes even in the eye of the general public THE thing to have?
First, an absolute must for the normal user is the ability to have several mail accounts, preferably in one view. Shouldn’t be that big of a deal. And for the security freaks we throw in policies controlling that stuff for good measure.
Second, making little applications should become easier again. Otherwise it will be Excel as the number one management tool for the forseeable future. I am still convinced (I am probably a slow learner), that Notes is the best management tool, as long as they let me do my apps. Third party solutions always have tons of features, that are not relevant to the problem. On the other hand, only 80 percent of the problem is solved, leaving me with the remaining 20 percent, which generate normally 80 percent of the effort.
Third, putting files in a Notes document as attachment, should be a thing of the past. That is probably the hardest part, but as long as files can be stored as XML, they could be imported and „kinda“ rendered as Notes documents. Now wouldn’t that be nice? Since there is an ODF standard, that might even be possible without reinventing everything. I doubt that anybody could implement Microsoft’s „standard“ without getting suicidal, but who knows.
It is great, that you still can use a Notes 2 application in Notes 9 and IBM does a hell of a job here, to make it happen, but one day, it’s just time to put an end to it and move on. I think it’s about time. Lotus Expeditor is way behind eclipse and I fear that it’s a dead end. It was a good idea, but Expeditor could not keep up with the rest and Eclipse itself has more and more problems to keep afloat. IBM has to cut the link between Eclipse and Notes sooner or later. IBM gave the open source community the IDE of choice for many years, but nobody can expect IBM to finance it endlessly. The idea of open source is, to develop its own momentum. If it doesn’t, it slows down and will eventually stop. That’s just the way it is. On the other hand, IBM can not expect, that Eclipse is developed in a way, that supports Expeditor.
But another question pops up. Is there still the need for a Notes client? Why not go web entirely? As long as I can not have wireless connections everywhere (even in that stupid tunnel after Bern), I probably want a client that works offline. But that problem has been solved before. HTML 5 is pretty strong. Now why not just ditch that old-fashioned client and concentrate on web? The problem could be, that we suddenly would have to deal with WebSphere. Although one heck of a good product, but probably not the first choice for an SMB. Buuuuuut, Quickr has gone that direction, Sametime too, why not Notes? Worse could happen. As long as there is some kind of migration path, it would not be the end of the world. Frankly, I would rather have a Connections Mail server based on Domino and easy to develop XPages applications, which work with a Connections installation, than continuing the beaten path which eventually is leads into oblivion, because as of today (that’s now, next week probably have changed my mind) Notes is sold as email with a twist. But that twist is not going to change a lot of minds anymore. Apparently IBM had success getting old customers back onto Notes, for whatever reason. Often only because the promised easy migration to SharePoint failed (and here we have to fight hard, not to look smug. That would be very unprofessional). That proves, that IBM is not abandoning Notes, but I am pretty sure, that some IBMer are also fed up with the old Notes and would rather start something new and leaving some ballast behind. After 25 years of backwards compatibility, that would be ok with me. And if it is still called Notes, I can pretend, that’s my old friend, but that only works if I (and that’s just me) get more of the daily general management stuff and not just some new email feature. Otherwise I can live quite happily with Apple Mail. That thing does what I need. It has its quirks, but so does Notes.
Oh and yes, there is all that cloud stuff. I am really thinking about moving to SmartCloud, but the on premises solutions will always have their market. More today than ever, because nobody likes the feeling, that some guys in trench coats and dark glasses are looking over your shoulder. It’s a matter of principle. Some will say, what the heck, the price to keep my own installation is too high and what does the NSA want with my CRM data anyway, others will pay for having better control over their stuff (or just the feeling). That’s ok. And there are those who had Notes for decades and use it to the max. They need something that replaces it without too much cost. And here comes the question that nobody today is ready or willing to answer. Can we live just with XPages? Can LS and Formula Language be abandoned? They are already on the move to the sideline and one day, there will be a Domino server without it. I personally am looking forward to it.
But since IBM and I never agree, next week will bring a lot of surprises. Either good or bad. Let’s see.